The first inaugural speech by Lincoln is different from the second one, considering that the second one reflected on the civil war which was nearing its end. The first speech was against the southern states seceding and the president insisted that he would protect the federal property in the states. He was specifically against the secession and promised that he would not interfere with the right to hold slaves, but there was a need for a solution that would not cause deaths or use of force. He promised to use force when need be and this is what happened in the civil war when the Northern States fought against the southern states (Wills 34). The second speech generally gave a fair view of the civil war, and expectations about the future. It also explains the cause of the war and Lincoln expectations about the future.
The most important observation from the speech is that the cause of the war was mainly the slaves in the southern states. The southern states wanted to continue holding their slaves so that they would continue benefiting from their free labor. On the other hand, the northern states wanted to abolish the slave trade and recognize the right of every individual member of the society (Wills 58). The southern states wanted to break from the union so that they would protect their right to own slaves, but the northern states were of the view that breaking from the federation from the union was not a possibility. This led to the conflict that saw many Americans die in the war.
Lincoln speech did not blame any of the sides for the cause of the civil war. The speech reveals that it was the will of God that the civil war happened and each of the sides in the war pursued their own interests, but the prayers of both sides were not answered. From this perspective, it is possible that both sides could have stopped the war from happening. The southern states would negotiate with the northern states so that they would continue owning slaves while ensuring that the interests of the union are protected. On the other hand, the northern states would have allowed the south to exercise their rights to keep slaves (Wills 41). In this case, the war would have been eliminated and many Americans would not have died.
While Lincoln was keen in ensuring that both sides would forgive each other and achieve peace, many Americans blame the southern states for causing the war. This is because they wanted to go against the constitution, which would be a bad precedent and against the interests of the founders of the nation. The federal government, under the leadership of the president, had a duty to respond and this means that the North was just responding to the aggression by the southern states. To a great extent, the Northern states were not in any way a cause of the war. The president just intended to appeal for peace among the people in the United States (Peterson 49).
The statement that "until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword" meant that the United States was suffering because they were paying for their sins by enslaving the blacks. This was a statement that indicated that the war was as a result of past deeds by the whites in the country who had accumulated wealth through the hard work of the slaves. It is true that the southerners had accumulated a lot of wealth considering that slaves provided labor in farms but did not benefit from the hard work that they engaged in. the suggestion is that they were dying and their wealth was being destroyed so as to compensate for the suffering of the slaves. The president viewed this as a punishment from God (Peterson 103). This is viewed as justice that was being delivered to the slaves by God.
To some extent, the statement is not true, considering that the slaves were also victims of the war. The whites were not fighting on their own, but there were many slaves who were also victims of the war and this means that they were not getting justice. Justice could have been delivered by other methods that would not lead to the death of both parties in the war (Morel 43). However, the white armies were the main casualties during the civil war as they lost lives and most of the wealth that they had accumulated was destroyed.
Lincoln also emphasized that the continuation of the war would mean that all that was gained during the slave trade would be lost. This to an extent was true as there was huge expenditure on the war and there was the destruction of many properties that the whites owned. The slaves had less to lose as they did not have wealth. This does not amount to justice in any way considering that the slaves were not gaining even though the whites were losing what they had accumulated from the hard work of their slaves (Peterson 34).
The speech emphasized the culture of the US, which is respect for the human rights and unity for all the people in the federation. Lincoln meant that if the war continued, it would further hurt everyone and benefit no one. It was time to heal, take care of each other including those who had lost everything and even their loved ones in the war. The earlier the people would forgive each other and come to peace, the better it would be for the nation.
The speech stated that it was his wish that the war comes to an end, but of the wish of God is that America continues to pay for the sins of engaging in slavery, and then he had no control over the same (Morel 84). The part reflected the reality of the time considering that as the president, Lincoln had a duty to ensure that the unity of the federation and its interest were protected by all means. This means that he was determined to ensure that the unity of the federation remained. The southern states could only end the war by giving up on the intention to secede.
The last part of the speech emphasizes the need for America to unite, and ensure that in the future, they do not ever attack each other nor do they attack any of their neighbors. The emphasis, in this case, is to ensure that there is peace not only in the US, but also in the neighboring countries. Peace would help achieve reconstruction as a result of the destruction in the civil war. The conclusion to a great extent reflected what would happen once the war ended. The emphasis on peaceful coexistence was achieved between the US southern and northern states.
While slavery did not end immediately in some parts, it was the beginning of the process of ending slavery (White and Todd 47). The peaceful coexistence with the rest of the world can also be deduced from the speech as Lincoln emphasized on the need for peaceful coexistence between the US and the rest of the world. The fact that the US did not participate in the world wars indicates that it was committed to ensuring that there is peaceful coexistence and its citizens are safe from such man-made calamities.
The speech also meant the slaves would be free, and they would equally get involved in the building of the economy. They would engage in work which rewards them and the whites would also build their own wealth through their hard work. Through this, there would be no conflict of interests between the Americans, and this would help make better economy (White and Todd 90). This would be in relation to religious values which emphasized on working hard to get food as Lincoln quoted the Bible where Adam was required to sweet to get food.
In summary, the speech was more reconciliatory to a great extent, putting on blame on anyone for the civil war but emphasizing on the need to come together, forgive each other and build the future together. The speech stated that the slavery history of the US was a reason for the civil war. It was the wish of God that the war happens so that the sin of owning slaves was repaid. The speech emphasizes on the justice that would be accorded to the slaves as the whites lost wealth that they had accumulated through the sweet of the slaves. If the war continued, the speech emphasized that everything gained through slavery would be lost. There was no one to blame for the war, and everyone was pursuing their own interests regardless of whether they prayed the same God to achieve their personal interests and no one won in the war as a result (Morel 76). It was time for the US to be peaceful and adapt the culture of unity that the founders of the nation intended.
The speech had a different meaning to different generations. For those who had faced the civil war, the speech meant that it was not time to blame each other for the suffering of the society, but people had to come together and move forward. They had to forgive each other and support those who had been affected most by the way for a better future. For the last ten years, the speech has meant a spirit of nationalism that emphasize on the need to remain peaceful and support each other in the national building. It has also meant an emphasis on peace to the rest of the world and this is why the US did not engage in First World War until it was provoked in the Second World War. The interests of the Americans have remained paramount for the rest of the history (Wills 67). Freedom of everyone emphasized in the years after the speech. In the modern history, the speech has meant that the US people have to respect the values of peace as well as deal with the external aggressors who threaten the US peace. This is why the country partners with its allies to ensure that there is sharing of intelligence and defend its people everywhere they are. There has been the promotion of peace among the people in the US especially in the current times where the issue of terrorism has been a threat (Wills 78). Hatred and radicalization have been handled with the participation of the local, state and federal government as well as the members of the society and this is meant to achieve safety for everyone.
Morel, Lucas E. Lincoln's Sacred Effort: Defining Religion's Role in American Self-Government. Lexington Books, 2000.Peterson, Merrill D. Lincoln in American Memory. Oxford UP, 1994.
White, Ronald C, and Raymond Todd. Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural. Blackstone Audio, Inc, 2009.
Wills, Garry. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. Simon & Schuster, 2014.
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